My old pal, The Commissioner, called me the other day for a little fitness advice. He lamented his recent inability to get to the gym and wondered what I thought about the idea of buying an elliptical machine to put in his basement as a way to get back on track.
That’s what I was thinking, anyway, given my experience with the Elliptical Death Machine at the gym. But I held my tongue and let him talk.
Like a lot of 50ish guys, TC has gradually fallen out of the exercise habit. He’s put on a few pounds, a realization that periodically triggers a burst of workout activity that eventually dwindles to nothingness. This worries him, because he’s become increasingly convinced that unless he’s sweating bullets at the gym four times a week he’s heading to an early grave.
This is a relatively common notion, one that tends to induce a form of recreational paralysis in well-intentioned, but stubbornly sedentary, folks of all ages. Unless you can really throw yourself into a serious workout regimen, what’s the point of exercising at all?
But there’s plenty of research out there showing that regular intervals of even moderate activity can keep you healthy and set you on the road to a perfectly acceptable lifespan. The latest is a study out of the University of Pennsylvania that tracked activity patterns of about 3,000 people between the ages of 50 and 79 and found that, eight years later, the dedicated couch potatoes in the group were five times more likely to die than the most active group and three times more likely to die than moderate exercisers.
The report did not reveal whether moderate exercise involved any time on the dreaded EDM, but still. . . .
“When we compare people who exercise the same amount, those who sit less and move around more tend to live longer,” study author Ezra Fishman said in a statement released by the university, “The folks who were walking around, washing the dishes, sweeping the floor tended to live longer than the people who were sitting at a desk.”
Even 10 minutes of moving around each day — no matter what form that takes — makes a big difference, Fishman said, and 30 minutes engaged in any moderate-to-vigorous activity is even better. (There are limits, however, as this recent New York Times piece revealed.)
I passed this intelligence on to TC, noting that anything he winds up doing is certainly better than doing nothing. But a hulking EDM in the basement, in my biased view, may be taking this exercise thing a bit too far.
But that’s just me. I seldom visit the gym anymore, but I do get out on my bike pretty much every day and I’ll sneak in a brief kettlebell session a few times a week before work — not because I think it’s going to extend my lifespan, but just because it feels good.
As I bump along toward my 70s, I’ve learned that I have to listen more closely than ever to what my aging body is telling me — and follow its lead. That means ratcheting back on the sweat-a-thons at the gym, slowing down my everyday pace, and leaning toward physical activity that makes me happy. That would not include anything elliptical.